How to Cook Fish: a Beginner’s Guide to Cooking Seafood

Food, How-To


Once you know what you’re doing, fish is one of the easiest proteins to cook, even easier than a chicken breast. Until you reach that point though, seafood is daunting. We’ve covered how to select the best seafood, but what do you do once you get it home?

There are plenty of cooking methods to choose from, but we dug up some of the most user-friendly fish at the market and have some tips for you about how to prepare and cook them. You want to consider how the natural flavor, thickness, and fat-level of your fish will work with your method of choice, whether it be frying, baking, roasting or steaming.

Here are some fun facts to consider before you start cooking

  • Pan searing fish is always a good option!
  • Yes, you can eat the skin on fish — it’s not going to kill you, but people are off and on about it (it’s a personal taste thing)
    The best fish for the grill are salmon on a cedar plank, swordfish, tuna and scallops!
    Leaner meat tends to not be ideal for grilling — anytime you grill fish you want to grill fish with a higher fat content
  • Mussels and clams are great on a charcoal grill in a grill pan or basket — they’ll be very, very flavorful that way.
  • Start to think about fish the way you think about produce. There are certain times for different fish, such as sockeye salmon from Copper River Alaska. They’re especially popular because they’re swimming upstream.

How to cook salmon

Arguably the most traditional fish, salmon is pretty ubiquitous and great for you, too. It was the first fish I tried when I was a little afraid of stepping outside of my boundaries and now it’s become a go-to in the rotation.

Salmon is super easy to cook at home — grill, pan sear, oven steam, baked or sautéd.  I’ve never grilled salmon on cedar planks but I’ve heard from friends that it’s a great way to add a smoky flavor to your food without adding calories or fat. I’ll definitely be giving that a try this summer.

Photo: Leigh Loftus

Photo: Leigh Loftus

Grilled Salmon with Roasted Corn Relish

incredible salmon

Incredible Salmon from The Foodie Physician

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Chili and Lime Baked Salmon from Playful Cooking

How to cook swordfish

Swordfish is a good entry level fish for any home cook that is ready to try something new. It has a fresh, mild flavor and is one of the meatier fish, reminiscent of a steak but with a lighter flavor.

Because of its density, swordfish stands up well to grilling. Fire up your grill or grill pan, and get started on your favorite marinade, relish or sauce. Swordfish doesn’t need a lot of attention to be the star of your plate.

Cilantro-Lime Grilled Swordfish 1

Cilantro Lime Grilled Swordfish from The Stay at Home Chef

swordfish pasta

Pasta with Swordfish and Cherry Tomato Sauce from Bon Appétit


Grilled Swordfish with Spicy Fruity Salsa from Sprinkles and and Sprouts

How to cook halibut

When in season, halibut is nice and versatile fish with a light, buttery flavor. It’s easy to prepare at home with a simple beurre blanc sauce, a blend of mushrooms and a fresh herb garnish.

You can pan-fry it, oven steam it or — my personal favorite — wrap it in a tinfoil packet with some seasonings and the halibut will draw in the flavors.

It’s great for entertaining — nice and light, inexpensive but elegant and cooks quickly so you can focus your attention on your guests.

herb roasted halibut

Photo: Leigh Loftus

Herb Roasted Halibut


Grilled Fish Tacos from Sweet Caroline’s Cooking


Pan Seared Halibut in Garlic White Wine Sauce from Ciao Florentina

How to cook ahi tuna

If you’re adventurous, ahi tuna is a great way to round out your seafood repertoire. Choose a higher grade level (sushi grade) and buy it from a specialty store. It’s a little pricier, but the quality for the fish is definitely worth it.

You can grill or sear ahi tuna, and if you’re really feeling that adventurous streak, you can eat your sushi grade level ahi raw, in a salad or in a poke.


Cilantro-Lime Grilled Tuna with Avocado Cucumber Salsa from Whole and Heavenly Oven

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Seared Ahi Tuna with Chimichurri Sauce, Arugula and Avocado from Kitchen Confidante


Poke Bowl with Spicy Ahi Tuna from The Cozy Apron

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